Wine of the Week #1513: Lustau Amontillado
[ Emilio Lustau Dry Amontillado “Los Arcos” ]
[ Farming & Vineyards ]
Much like Champagne, Sherry is the name of both a place and a wine. The name Sherry comes from the word Jerez, a city of just over 200,000 people – and wine region set about 15 km inland from the Atlantic coast. Emilio Lustau’s main estate vineyard is Montegilillo, 15 kms to the north of Jerez, but quality grapes are also purchased from growers throughout the Jerez DO.
Dry Sherry is made from a grape variety called Palomino, which is grown virtually exclusively in the Jerez region of Spain. Palomino is a thin-skinned white grape, which produces very light, delicate and not particularly aromatic juice. There are three main soil types with the Sherry producing zones of Spain: Barros, Arenas and Albariza. Barros and Arenas soil types are planted primarily to vineyards growing grapes to be used in the production of sweet or cream style Sherry.
When it comes to Palomino – the grape used to produce dry expressions of Sherry – Albariza is king. Albariza is a chalk-rich, glowing white soil which is prized across the appellation for a couple of key reaons: (i) it forms a sort of hard, crusty surface layer which helps the soils beneath retain moisture, and (ii) white soil reflects sunlight back up onto the vines above encouraging vegetative growth and better fruit maturity.
[ Winemaking & Aging ]
Much like grape varieties grown in other parts of the world with less inherent aromatic qualities, Sherry wines made from Palomino rely on process to impart flavours and aromas. Chardonnay is an example of another grape which, like Palomino, is less aromatic than other white grapes (like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling) and hence Chardonnay is often enhanced with fermentation or aging in oak barrels to bring complexity. Aging processes are employed in the production of Sherry with the same objectives in mind.
The cellars of Emilio Lustau hold stock of 40,000 casks (each containing 500 litres). Sherry regulations dictate that up to one third of the total stockholding can be bottled and shipped per year, but Lustau age their sherries much longer, and consequently ship less.
Winemaking takes place in a modern, state-of-the-art winery, with fermentation carried out in stainless steel temperature-controlled tanks to produce fresh, clean wines. The musts (grape juice) are fermented completely dry and then fortified with grape spirit. Unlike most Sherry producers, Lustau ensures that all their wines spend at least some time under ‘flor’ (a naturally-occuring film of yeast which protects the sherry from oxygen) – this gives added complexity, while maintaining a youthful delicacy.
Within the broad category of “Sherry”, we find 6 distinct styles. Each involves slightly different production methods, but the key distinguishing factors tend to revolve mainly around how and for how long these various styles are aged.
The most delicate soleras (which remain under flor for an extended period) are bottled as Fino, or aged until the flor dies and the wine becomes Amontillado. The Lustau examples are special because the soleras were established so long ago, and contain a high proportion of old wine. Lustau also have access to the cream of the very old and very fine stocks held by the Almacenistas (private stock holders who raise and age their own small lots of Sherry), with whom Lustau (originally Almacenistas themselves) maintain excellent relations. No other Sherry house can draw upon such fine, mature stocks.
The aging process changes the wine, imparting a distinctly amber colour, with flavours and aromas of ripened tree fruit like golden delicious apple and pear, with more subtle wood and raisin elements. This wine is a perfect partner for umami rich foods like mushrooms or aged cheeses, and is a lovely tipple with tapas showcasing green vegetables like asparagus or artichoke.
[ Price ]
[ Technical Specs ]
Case Pack: 12 x 750mL
GRAPES: 100% Palomino
[ Recipes & Food Pairings ]
Wild Mushrooms, Foraged Leeks & Bacon Cream – RECIPE
Chorizo & Red Wine Risotto – RECIPE
Duck Breast w/ Roasted Grapes – RECIPE
[ Tasting Notes ]
“Every time new sherry (not the Canadian cream variety – get your mind out of the gutter) hits the LCBO, it’s like Christmas for bartenders and Spain-ophiles. This amber amontillado begins life as a fino and is elegantly oxidized as the flor, the protective blanket of yeast that sits on the surface of biologically aged sherry, dies off over the years. Bright and nutty (not to mention a total steal), Los Arcos is made for nibbles like nuts and dried fruit, cheese and cured meats. Serve cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.”
Sarah Parniak / Now Magazine
“Amber-coloured and very dry, Lustau’s Los Arcos is marvellously complex and balanced, layered with notes of roasted almonds and hazelnuts, orange, honey and dried fruit. It was recently added to the LCBO’s permanent stock of general-list products in Ontario. Splendid as an aperitif, it also matches beautifully with soups of all kinds as well as a plate of roasted nuts. If offers amazing value for a 750-millilitre bottle of Spanish fortified wine from a fine producer.”
92/100 Points – Beppi Crosariol, Globe & Mail
Wine of the Week #1513: One of the Great Food Wines of the World
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